Apart from being one of the biggest retail stores in the United States, Wal-Mart is also one of the most criticized companies in America. Its company policies and business practices are the most common factors that mostly come under scrutiny. This criticism mostly comes from Wal-Mart customers, environmental groups, labor unions, religious organizations and community groups.
All the controversy surrounding the large company has placed it in major global debates on world trade, free enterprise system, revamping of downtowns, and healthcare (Vedder 192). Consequently, it has become the lighting rod of society’s most troubling issues.
Being a large retail store, it is assumed by the public that they are the trendsetters for every practice in the industry and that they are a mirror reflection of other retail stores. Wal-Mart is criticized on workers’ payments and other workers’ rights. In a way, the store is being measured against a benchmark of perfection that is almost impossible to attain. This entails demanding that the company ensures that its workers are living in an appropriate living standard.
There are varieties of factors that are criticized about the retail store. Wal-Mart shoppers translate being greeted by an elderly person as you enter the store by an elderly person as an indirect warning that they are being watched. Other critics who are strongly concerned with the appearance and aesthetics of their towns argue that Wal-Mart is causing the other small stores to shut down. Others claim that the company imports its products at low prices out of America and thereby it does not promote job creation at home (Lichtenstein and Nelson 105). Another common thing that the store has been accused of is predatory pricing. This is because the corporation has put very low prices on most of its goods. These critics believe is a strategy for unfair competition against other retail stores in their vicinity.
Looking critically at all the sentiments expressed by the critics, it becomes clear that the major problem that people have is that Wal-Mart has attracted very many shoppers in comparison to other stores. They seem to be raising their concerns in the guise of disgruntled shoppers yet in the real sense they are just people who are trying to minimize customers’ choices. Clearly most of the groups seem to raise economic issues that they portray as a problem affecting all Americans. This is what makes people to take keen interest in the issues and think they should be dealt with accordingly.
Like any corporation, the workers always want to get more pay to match the work they do. However, this does not mean that Wal-Mart has placed very low rates for the prices on their goods and low employee payment rates as the critic groups want to suggest (Hicks and Michael 98). The employees of Wal-Mart enter an agreement with the store’s management of course under no coercion and the payment rates are reached based on a mutual agreement. The workers apply to work at the store and they willingly agree to the terms and conditions.
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In comparison to the current economic status and general status of the retail store industry, Vedder says that the wages Wal-Mart employees receive is adequate and proportionate when all these aspects are put into consideration. The corporation also spends a lot of money on supervision, training and automation. Most of these part time workers do not come with readymade expertise and this justifies the wages they get after training. This is also the reason why most of the employees at Wal-Mart are part-timers. Apart from this, the workers also benefit from the welfare state programs (Vedder 192). Some people look at this factor as stifling to the state’s development as it adds on the taxpayers’ burden to sustain the welfare services. A different angle to look at this that the critics have not considered would be that fact that these employees can access the subsidized health care services for their families thereby bringing about social safety. Medicaid is one such healthcare system that the employees and their families can benefit from.
According to Vedder, there is no single sign of employee oppression at the Wal-Mart. Unlike what the critic groups will have the public believe, the challenges that these employees experience in their working environment are similar to workers working for any other retail stores. Especially the fact that most employees work for long at the retail store without quitting justifies that the working conditions there are not so badly off. Vedder finds the suggestion that the corporation is functioning round this grand conspiracy utterly preposterous. None of these claims can be competently justified (Vedder 192).
A recent strike by Wal-Mart workers about wages in South Carolina gave the critics a foot hold for their claims. The workers working at the super centers were disgruntled by the fact that they were getting the lowest wages in comparison to the other grocery shops in the vicinity. One would assume that in this way, the made the other stores like Vons appear as better employers. Considering that the employees stay on in the company and that the customer base has not decline even after such strikes it only means that Wal-Mart does not depend on the salary scale of the employees to build its name but on the affordability of their goods (Soderquist 116).
The presence of Wal-Mart has brought a lot of grief to its competitors. However regardless of its shortcomings, the company also brings some benefits. Its highly affordable prices on goods means that people can be able to afford most things they would have otherwise not been able to. On the other side of the coin, the other retailers may consider it unfair competition. Apart from having a wide array of goods to choose from unlike in the past, shoppers do not have to be oppressed by those who had monopoly in this business and set very high prices on goods.
Wal-Mart prides itself in raising the living standards of its customers. By keeping their customers happy and turning them into regular shoppers, they have been able to achieve the expected returns for the shareholders (Vedder 218).
Forbes magazine recently published a report that revealed that Wal-Mart benefits the US economy. The research that was done by Minneapolis’ Federal Reserve Bank covered over 89 counties, which had experienced Wal-Mart’s services. The study was conducted for twenty years to find out the retail employment, overall employment and personal income. All these were found to have had a great growth in counties where Wal-Mart as opposed to counties where they did not have the stores.
The structure and functioning of this retail store has made other stores in this line of business to pull up their socks. Apart from the negative side to it, the critic groups- including: the community groups, retail chain owners and labor unions - should also consider the positive areas and emulate the strategies of this corporation in order to better the economy (Riper 3).
Hicks, Michael J. The Local Economic Impact of Wal-Mart. Youngstown, N.Y: Cambria Press, 2007. Print.
Lichtenstein, Nelson. Wal-mart: The Face of Twenty-First-Century Capitalism. New York, NY New Press, 2006. Print.
Soderquist, D.The Wal Mart Way: The Inside Story of the Success of the World's Largest Company. Nashville: T. Nelson, 2005. Print.
Riper, V. Why wallmart may just be Good for the US. Forbes. Retrieves on May 30, 2012 from: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22719054/ns/business-forbes_com/t/why-wal-mart-may-just-be-good-us/#.T8Xk07D9P7A
Vedder, Richard K, and Wendell Cox. The Wal-Mart Revolution: How Big-Box Stores Benefit Consumers, Workers, and the Economy. Washington, D.C: AEI Press, 2006. Print.